by Andrew Kimble
On December 29, 1937, Howard Thurman delivered an address at the National Methodist Student Conference titled The Sources of Power for Christian Action. The address answers questions about the why of Christian action and the meaning of Christian action. It is within this context that Thurman deals with the technique of moral appeal, how to resolve a conflict of loyalties, and discusses the spiritual resources necessary for Christian action in the midst of struggle.
It takes effort to better understand the language and nature of Howard Thurman. Many people acknowledge his legacy but rarely have the opportunity to wrestle with his messages. I thought it would be cool to lift a segment from The Sources of Power for Christian Action titled “The Highest Resource.” It has been central to my reflections on God and always reinforces my interest in prayer. My hope is that in the careful reading of this passage you, too, will find something worth wrestling with.
The Highest Resource
“The ultimate spiritual resource for Christian action, of course, is God. And I say this with cold objective deliberation. For many of the tasks to which we are committed it will be enough to get the inspiration and the strength that come from the consciousness of high endeavor. For many of the things that we have to do, it will be enough to know that we have entered actively into fellowship with Jesus Christ. For still other tasks we may find all the resources needful in a sense of community with a select group of like-minded seekers and achievers of the good life for themselves and their age. But, fundamentally, in the task that calls for the complete transformation of the world and the redemption of man and society from evil only an infinite source of strength and power can meet the demand.
To state it categorically, only an infinite resource can meet an infinite need. And particularly is this true when one comes face to face with the deep abysmal churnings of evil resident in one’s own life and character. For the same thing that the Christian is seeking for himself, namely salvation from evil in particular and the root of evil in his own spirit; there must be something that can absorb all the limitations of one’ life, limitations of personality, limitations of thought, limitations of action, limitations of desire, and it seems to me that God is the only answer.
And how is this true? It is true because in the first place I must have a guarantor of my deeds, a guarantor of my values in the clear lucid light of which I can see myself as I am, stripped bare of all pretense, of all subterfuge, of all artificiality. And once I have seen it, I know what it is that I seek and I know what it is that society needs. I know then what is the be-all and end-all of living.
Prayer, which offers the method does several things for me. It grows out of an imperative urgency of trust. It enables me to keep fresh in my spirit the dedication to which my life is given. It provides a sense of power that makes courage and purposefulness possible for one as limited as I am. It gives abundance of freedom and joy because it destroys fears. It clarifies the conflicting issues that naturally arise out of any form of action, so that against the darkness of the age I can see the illumined finger of God guiding me in the way that I should go, so that high above the clash of arms in the conflict for position, for rights, for status, for place, for priority, I can hear speaking distinctly and clearly to my own spirit the still small voice of God, without which nothing has meaning quite, with which all the rest of the journey, however difficult, however painful, however devastating, will be filled with music all its own and even the stars in their courses and all the wooded world of nature participate in the triumphant music of my heart.” —Howard Thurman
Andrew Kimble is a first year MDiv student from Los Angeles, California. He loves good music, coffee, medium porterhouse steaks, and chess. He is an advocate for social and economic justice.